Posted by: lavernewaddington | January 10, 2014

Backstrap Weaving – Fingers and Toes

rav gamesIt’s a Ravelry.com thing. Paul suggested it and Joyful made it happen by designing a team badge. So, we have a team in the Ravelry Ravellenic Games which will run alongside the Winter Games at Sochi, Russia from February 7-23. The goal, as stated in the Ravelry rules, is to “Challenge yourself by starting and finishing one or more projects during the 2014 Winter Olympics” (and have fun). There is more to this…events, scores, finish line and medals. To be honest I have no clue as to what it all really entails but, as I weave everyday anyway, I thought, “Why not?” 

I did very little weaving this week. Instead I did lots of twining and, unfortunately, un-twining and twining again along with a little braiding. The twining became tricky and I only did the braiding to get myself away from the loom before I started throwing things! Twining attempt three is currently underway. I enjoy on-loom twining. It’s all about fingers and thread…no shedding devices, beaters, swords, shuttles or bobbins…it looks like pure simplicity on the surface but I am here to tell you that sometimes it can get complicated.

LEFT; The very start of the Palma braid with the 4 sets of 6 srands used to make it. RIGHT: My had in the braiding position. Two opposing stes of strands are interchanged. The braid is then rotated so the other two sets can be worked.

LEFT; The very start of the Palma braid with the 4 sets of 6 srands used to make it. RIGHT: My hand in the braiding position. Two opposing sets of strands are interchanged. The braid is then rotated so the other two sets can be worked.

So, I took a break from twining and braided to make some keyfobs. This was great. Short lengths of yarn for a small item, only three colors, no tools except for fingers and fist. I got out odds and ends of wool that I have in a tub in the closet and played.

???????????????????????????????It was fun making the Palma braid again after not having done so for a long, long time. The last time I recall having done so, I was teaching it to a Mapuche lady that I met in Cusco. The keyfob on the right is woven rather than braided. It’s a tubular weaving with the ñawi pattern which, for me,  is faster to execute than the braid. The weaving set up does not require string heddles, just a couple of sticks to hold the cross. You separate your feet and warp around your two big toes (only a very short warp is required for a keyfob!), secure the cross and you are ready to start weaving. Toes and thread. Fingers and thread. The weaving advances quickly compared to the braiding.  I was able to use my new forked stick in the cross.

???????????????????????????????Yes, the stick is way too big for that tiny band warp but I sat on the floor with knees up and the forked stick rested on my legs while I did the picking up of the warp threads to form the pattern. So, my forked stick, gift from fr. Kyriakos in Australia was used for the first time. There was a thread on Ravelry where we were asked to name our favorite new tool of 2013 and I had no hesitation in choosing this forked stick as mine. Cut from a pussy willow tree and  smoothed to perfection, carefully packed up and sent to me by mail, it’s a treasure!

Fr. Kyriakos with one of his projects. He has been learning to weave on a backstrap loom using my blog and books. Now he needs to make a forked stick for himself!

Fr. Kyriakos with one of his projects. He has been learning to weave on a backstrap loom using my blog and books. Now he needs to make a forked stick for himself!

A forked stick or tanka is used by weavers of the ñawi awapa in the Cusco area of Peru. In other parts of Peru it is used to hold the cross and help with operating the string heddles. The weaver grasps the join of the fork and twists the sticks away. This serves to tighten the upper layer of threads. At the same time the weaver leans forward to relax tension on the lower layer of threads while pulling up on the heddle rod. This combination of moves makes the opening of the heddle shed smooth and efficient.

backstrap weaving Laverne WaddingtonInstructions for the Palma braid can be found here on my blog. You will also find the Margarita braid there which I might use this coming week for more keyfobs.

On another break from the twining torment I created a warp with the wool that I talked about last week. This could well be a disaster. I don’t think I have ever tried to weave anything so large with wool that has such loose twist. This project will be treated as an experiment to see how the wool behaves. As such I haven’t planned any particular pattern for the piece and will play it by ear. If it is a success, it just might become a slip case for a computer. I do love the colors so here’s hoping that I can at least salvage a piece of woven cloth if it ends up a sticky, pilly, broken mess.

???????????????????????????????I will put in the heddles and then leave it until I am done with the twining.

Jennifer’s hemp project is coming along beautifully. I remember it was a long time ago that Jennifer first told me that she would like to weave the loraypu pattern of Chinchero (the one in the center). She waited patiently for my second book to come out in which I have charted these designs.  I can imagine how pleased she must be with the way this is turning out.

Jennifer progressI came across a gem of a video on Facebook last week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have English subtitles but I am sure that you will enjoy watching this piece on a weaving cooperative in Suljaa, Mexico where young Amuzga girls can take a chair, sticks and thread and receive free weaving lessons from the weaving masters of the community. It is a beautiful video!! The shots of those little toes sticking up make me smile so much. The pride with which the little girls show and explain their work bring tears to my eyes. I love seeing them on their bellies on the floor coloring designs. That’s how I like to chart.

Other videos by the same producer can been seen hereAll are worth seeing. I particularly like Serpiente de Colores which is an interesting film comprising a rapid succession of still shots accompanied by women speaking in the native language of the Amuzga (subtitled in Spanish).

Juan Miguel tinkuyO (6)It is always delightful to see the youngsters learning to weave and interesting to see the ways that different cultures approach it. The little girls of Suljaa, for example, are taught using quite wide warps using fine cotton thread. In the video they were learning to count the threads and make simple patterns with supplemental wefts. You could see that their instructors often had to help them open the sheds. My 17-year old teacher in Guatemala, had become an accomplished weaver long before she was considered skilled enough to warp and set up the loom on her own. Her mother would do the warping and heddle making and then hand over the loom to her. 

In the Andes, children in the Cusco region, like the little boy above from Acopia, start out weaving many narrow woolen bands in order to perfect pick-up patterns which can later be combined on wider pieces. The bands are attached to their waists by string. I have seen pictures of small children in Nagaland weaving bands that look around 2″ wide with proper backstraps and with the loom bars lodged behind their tiny little toes. (see link at end of post)

A young girl from Pitumarca weaves a plain-weave tubular band while sewing it to the edge of a piece of woven cloth.

A young girl from Pitumarca weaves a plain-weave tubular band while sewing it to the edge of a piece of woven cloth.

A community elder gives a set of tools toa young weaver at a ceremony at the Tinkuy de Tejedores in Urubamba 2010.

A young weaver proudly receives a set of tools from an elder of her community at a ceremony at the Tinkuy de Tejedores in Urubamba 2010.

The Weaving Communities of Practice site explains and names (in both Aymara and Quechua) the various stages of the learning process in the Andes starting at 3-5 years with spinning and continuing from the age of 5 up to 25 with various stages of braiding, weaving and warping.

Nilda Callañaupa, in her book Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories,  includes a chapter on Learning Designs and Techniques in the Peruvian highlands stating that learning to weave usually begins when children are 6 to 10 years old. Ed and Christine Franquemont write in greater detail about the learning process in Chinchero, Peru in the Textile Museum Journal Vol. 26, 1987.

Maxima Cortez guides teen-aged Gaby from the Club de Chicas as she weaves a traditional pick-up pattern.

Maxima Cortez guides teen-aged Gaby from the Club de Chicas as she weaves a traditional pick-up pattern.

Of course, this process of learning and passing on skills is interrupted in so many ways and in so many places as youngsters leave their homes in rural communities to live near cities which provide higher levels of  education and greater employment opportunities. In many places it has all together ceased to exist.

Dorinda Dutcher is one of several people who is working in rural communities to help, in Dorinda’s own words lead the local movement to rescue, preserve, and market their traditional weavings. PAZA has helped the weavers to revive natural dye techniques and provided technical support to improve the quality of the finished woven items for an external market. 

Youth have been involved to address the preservation objective. PAZA began the Club de Chicas in December 2010 during school vacation to help bridge the rupture in the passing of weaving tradition from mother to daughter when families migrate from their farms to town.

Many families migrate to provide education for their children beyond 5th grade. The Club de Chicas activities combine modern and traditional skills. The spinning and weaving classes are taught by Doña Màxima Cortez, the PAZA Coordinator. Dorinda Dutcher, former Peace Corps volunteer, teaches baking, computer, and basic business classes.

577740_517152818330767_401425517_nSince the Club de Chicas was established in 2010 I have been ordering bands from the group which I use as samples in my backstrap weaving classes. I know that several of the bands in this collection that I bought in 2012 were made by the teen-aged girls under Maxima’s guidance.

Dorinda’s PAZA Bolivia site is now up and running again (after having suffered a malware infection) and Dorinda has written several posts about Tinkuy 2013 which she and Maxima attended. I have not found many reports online about Tinkuy 2013 and have been eagerly awaiting Dorinda’s detailed and entertaining posts.

Dorinda's photo shows proud weavers from Chahuaytire at Tinkuy 2013 standing on front of their entry in the 2013 community weaving competition.

Dorinda’s photo shows proud weavers from Chahuaytire at Tinkuy 2013 standing in front of their entry in the 2013 community weaving competition.

I contacted Indian photographer Ajay Jain to ask his permission  to include a set of wonderful pictures he took of children weaving in Nagaland. Unfortunately I haven’t heard back from him yet. In his images, the joy on the children’s little faces moves me and, once again, those wee toes holding onto loom bars make me smile and smile. Please do follow this link and take a look. It’s guaranteed to leave you with a smile too!

Until next week!


Responses

  1. Gracias, Laverne!!!! Como siempre un placer recorrer tu blog. FELIZ 2014

  2. Excellent post, Laverne. Thanks so much for the videos by Mariana Rivera Garcia.

  3. Beautiful post, thank you !

  4. The little Mexican weavers in the video are absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Thank you for the links and the opportunity to see more of Dona Maxima’s work. Very inspiring.


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